Harlequin's Slash Fic

The One Good Thing

Title: The One Good Thing
Author: Julien
Universe: Hornblower
Characters featured: Horatio/Archie, with Archie/Simpson in the background
Category, Word count: Short story; 557 words
Rating: R
Summary: Horatio is desperate for a little kindness, but it’s in short supply on the Justinian.
Warnings: Archie’s relationship with Simpson is, of course, non-consensual.
First published: 8 December 2002 in Horatio Hornblower & the Prix d’Amor



The One Good Thing


‘No, Archie, please! Stop – or at least wait a moment. You are too far along for me.’

Archie cast him a mutinous glare, barely visible in the dark closeness of the Justinian’s shot locker, but clear nonetheless.

Horatio experienced his own stab of rebellion. ‘Does Jack Simpson leave you so hungry?’

The young man shoved away from him; and those parts of Horatio that were unbuttoned were left exposed to the cold air. ‘How can you say that to me?’ Archie demanded.

He was sorry for it already, knowing how deep the words would have cut. But the quick rebellion had settled into dull resentment, so Horatio protested, ‘What else am I to think? You come to me with his smell still upon you –’

‘To wash the foul taste away!’

‘– and you so hungry that you are finished before I am barely begun.’

‘Oh God,’ Archie groaned, truly distraught – and ‘My God!’ truly angry. ‘The one good thing in my life, you are the one good thing in my life here, and even you turn on me, Horatio, even you are cruel.’

‘If you yourself were kind to me…’

‘Kind? This is no place for kindness!’

‘Is it not?’ he asked, knowing he sounded painfully wistful.

And Archie was good enough to respond to that, at least. Archie came back, and put his arms around Horatio, tucking his head in against Horatio’s shoulder, and the cold places began warming again. ‘Oh, Horatio, I could wish it were. But if there is kindness here, then I have never found it.’

‘Then can we not create it for ourselves?’ And he said, ‘I thought that was the point of this!’

No answer but a groan that seemed to indicate hopelessness.

‘If only we were given shore leave at the same time,’ Horatio continued. ‘If only we had a room to ourselves, and a bed – do you remember real beds, Archie? – a big featherbed, and a fire. Warmth enough to disrobe. Time enough and privacy enough to…’

Archie had stilled, as if listening so carefully that he’d forgotten to breathe. When Horatio didn’t conclude, Archie whispered, ‘To what? Horatio?’

‘To be kind to each other.’

Another groan, yearning this time. And then Archie was falling to his knees, and his desperate mouth took Horatio into him and suckled.

‘No… Archie, please, I am not ready!’ But he knew by now that it was useless to protest, and Horatio could not push the man away. He was not that cruel. He would not become that cruel. Instead he submitted, and to ease the process he tried to imagine Archie stretched naked beside him on the clean white sheets of an enormous featherbed, and they were warm, and they were happy, and they were kind.

The imagining did not survive his completion, which was a forced and painful thing. As soon as he was done, Horatio fell to his knees beside his friend – Archie, the one good thing in his life here – and he took the fellow in his arms. But Archie could only withstand the embrace for a moment or two, and then he tore himself away with a groan – distraught – and plunged out of the locker and away.

Horatio curled up on the deck, alone. Miserable. Clinging to the imagining of kindness; in terror of forgetting the possibilities.

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